After Fake News ‘Bombshell’ Implodes, BuzzFeed to Cut 15% of Staff

A week ago, two of BuzzFeed’s all-star “investigative journalists” reported a story accusing President Donald J. Trump of instructing his former personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, a felony.

Shortly thereafter, the story imploded when Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III debunked it, in a truly embarrassing display for the world-renowned listicle website. Editor-in-Chief of BuzzFeed’s news division, Ben Smith, doubled down on the story, claiming that his reporters’ anonymous sources knew more about the investigation than the Special Counsel himself.

Now, BuzzFeed is back in the headlines, and coincidentally (or perhaps not) the network will be laying off 15 percent of its staff, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

“BuzzFeed is planning to lay off about 15% of its workforce, according to people familiar with the situation, as the company seeks to reorient itself in a shifting digital-media landscape,” the report said. “The cuts could affect around 250 jobs, the people said. The firm, among the most high-profile digital-native publishers, also is looking to realign its resources to invest more in promising areas of the business like content licensing and e-commerce, one of the people said.”

Moving away from news and into content licensing is perhaps smart, given the website’s proclivity for viral cat videos, which is diametrically opposed to its reputation for hapless journalism.

The Journal said that BuzzFeed is considering a merger with “other digital media players.”

“Unfortunately, revenue growth by itself isn’t enough to be successful in the long run. The restructuring we are undertaking will reduce our costs and improve our operating model so we can thrive and control our own destiny, without ever needing to raise funding again,” BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti reportedly told his staff in a memo.

America might just have to figure out how to survive with fewer listicles and fake news “bombshells,” a truly grim prospect.

Follow Peter D’Abrosca on Twitter: @pdabrosca

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